Rule 1. Expect the unexpected. (And have a backup plan.)
It’s amazing any of the events I run are successful. There are so many points of failure that don’t have to fail for an event to be successful.
The event has to start. There needs to be someone to start the session and allow participants to join. The host needs access to the computer, the application used and the knowledge of how to start and setup the event.
The person/people presenting the content need to be present and have their materials. They need to be early and setup to begin on time.
From the slide deck to the microphone setup, the presenter needs to be early to allow for troubleshooting. If the presenter is going to use a lavalier mic, it needs to be attached to the person using it.
The audience needs to be present. Whether it’s in a large venue, entirely remote with each participant at their desk or a combination, they need to be present and ready.
Events that start late or have issues at the beginning can lose much of the audience before they even get going. Also, the audience needs to be considered in sound and technology.
Are they going to be able to speak? If not, you better forcefully mute their lines. Don’t want to hear babies crying, dogs barking and side conversations? Mute your participants. Find a way to silence them and if you are having them ask questions, find another way to handle it. E-mail, a text-based chat function or an operator-assisted audio call are all possibilities. But they involve planning and testing to assure success.
Microphones and speakers are the key to getting audio from the presenter to the audience. Microphones must be in the right places, set to the right volume and placed properly throughout the room.
There’s a lot to consider when using microphones for an event. Some people hold their mic right up to their mouth. Some people sit back a foot or more from the microphone. Usually there’s no way to know how a person addresses a microphone beforehand so you need to be ready to adjust volume on the fly.
In addition to mic technique people speak at different volumes. Some people speak very quietly. And some people speak very loudly.
The problems are exacerbated when soft-spoken people hold the microphone far away from their mouths and people who speak very loud hold the mic very close.
Be ready for the soft-spoken presenter to hand his mic to the loud presenter and the momentary deafness resulting as you drive for the volume switch. Be ready for your head executive to stand to the side of the podium and not behind it. You never know what people are going to do so be ready to react and adjust.
A solid Internet connection is vital to a remote conference being successful. Bandwidth is needed for audio, video and any slides or files being shared.
If you’re presenting, try to get a wired internet connection. Wireless is wonderful but it can fluctuate which normally wouldn’t be noticeable but when your audio cuts out or video drops, everything is going to see. And never, if you can possibly avoid it, run an event over a cellular connection.
While landlines have fallen out of favor at home, they’re vital to teleconferences. Cellular connections are great for convenience, but they’re also variable in quality and reliability.
The same issues that plague wireless and cellular data connections go double for the audio over the phone. The entire purpose of the event is to hear what the presenter is saying. If the connection is poor your audience suffers.
“Acts of God”
You can plan for every contingency. You can plan tests and test plans but there’s still something else to consider. All of those things you haven’t considered.
- What if a presenter puts the clicker to advance the slides in his pocket and the slide show starts dancing around wildly?
What if a presenter hangs up the phone?
What if a presenter mutes the phone by accident and can’t figure out how to unmute it?
What if a presenter cannot launch the software to join the session?
What happens if the video feed to a remote city cuts out right before you’re switching it to the main screen?
What happens if your presenter gets delayed and arrives 2 minutes before your event is scheduled to start?
After testing audio the previous night, you arrive on-site to find the audio levels drastically different from where you left them?
What if you walk into the room you and there’s no computer, telephone or internet connection?
These are all things I have encountered and worked around. The biggest takeaway here is to give yourself extra time before your event begins.
I cannot stress this enough. Almost no issue is too big to overcome if you have an hour or two to solve it. However, if you walk into an event 10 minutes early, you may be stuck with a problem too big to solve.